Understanding SBP, DIC and SSIA

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The Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP)

The Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) was created to provide financial support to military spouses and/or children when a military member dies while on active duty or after retirement.

SBP provides eligible beneficiaries with a monthly payment known as an annuity. The recipient of an SBP annuity is referred to as the annuitant.

The amount of the SBP benefit is a percentage of retired pay. The percentage depends upon whether the member chooses full or reduced coverage at the time of election (generally at retirement or at 20-year qualification). SBP provides up to 55 percent of a service member's retired pay to an eligible beneficiary upon the death of the member.

After the service member passes away, the SBP annuity is paid out monthly to the surviving spouse, or to the child or children of the member.

SBP for Spouses and Benefits from the Department of Veterans' Affairs (VA)

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) is a monetary benefit offered by the VA. 

Spouse SBP annuitants, except for those who remarry after age 57 (or in other specific circumstances), cannot receive full SBP and DIC at the same time (DIC payments made directly to children, or to a guardian on behalf of children, do not affect SBP child annuity payments).

When we are informed by the VA that a spouse annuitant is receiving DIC, the law requires that DFAS deduct the amount of DIC received from the amount of SBP payable and pay the remaining amount of the SBP to the annuitant. This is called the SBP/DIC offset.

For example, if an annuitant receives a monthly SBP annuity of $500 from DFAS and becomes eligible to receive a monthly DIC award of $400 from the VA, DFAS will deduct the $400 DIC from the $500 SBP and pay the remaining $100 to the annuitant.

If the SBP payment is greater than the DIC payment, a partial refund of premiums paid into the program during the service member's retirement will be made to the spouse.

If the DIC payment is greater than the SBP payment, SBP will be stopped completely and all eligible basic spouse premiums paid into the program during the service member's retirement will be refunded.

The SBP premium refund is limited to SBP premiums paid by the deceased service member during the time periods when they were married to an eligible spouse, and a Spouse SBP election was maintained on their retired pay account. These premium refunds are taxed as income to the spouse since they were not taxed when they were deducted from retired pay.

When a spouse is eligible to receive SBP and DIC, and those payments are subject to the SBP/DIC offset, the spouse will also receive the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA).

The Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA)

The Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA) is a benefit for surviving spouses who receive a Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) annuity that is offset by a Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) payment from the VA.

SSIA is now a permanent* benefit. The benefit will now be paid at $318 per month plus a cost-of-living adjustment each calendar year. 

SSIA is never used to repay past due SBP premiums. If the spouse annuitant is entitled to SSIA, we will pay the SSIA, even when there are past due premiums.

DIC payments to children do not affect SBP child annuitant payments, so child annuitants are not eligible to receive SSIA.

How Remarriage May Impact a Spouse SBP Annuity

Spouses maintain their eligibility for SBP until death, as long as they do not remarry before the age of 55. If the annuitant remarries before age 55, annuity payments will stop.

However, if the annuitant's marriage later ends for any reason, even after age 55, the annuity payment will restart from the date the marriage ends, once DFAS is notified.

When a surviving spouse remarries after age 55, but prior to age 57, DIC payments stop. If the spouse's SBP payment was previously reduced or eliminated because of DIC, the full SBP payment may resume. The spouse must first repay all of the SBP premiums that were refunded when DIC first began. These premium repayments may be made out of the SBP annuity payments the spouse would otherwise receive, however, the entire repayment must be made before a spouse annuitant will receive any SBP annuity funds.

Spouse annuitants who remarry after age 57 are entitled to receive full SBP and DIC benefits at the same time. This is the result of a 2009 court** decision. According to the ruling, DFAS is not required to deduct DIC payments from a monthly SBP annuity if a spouse is entitled to both benefits and has remarried after age 57.

How to Notify DFAS of a Change in Marital Status

Annuitants are responsible for notifying DFAS of any changes to their marital status.

To notify us of a remarriage prior to age 55, please complete the following form and mail or fax it with a copy of your marriage certificate to DFAS U.S. Military Annuitant Pay:

1. COE (Annuitant Certificate of Eligibility)

To notify us of a remarriage after age 55, please complete the following forms and mail or fax to DFAS U.S. Military Annuitant Pay:

1. DD 2656-7 (Verification for Survivor Annuity)

2. IRS W-4P (Withholding for Pension or Annuity Payments) 

3. Direct Deposit start-up form 

To notify us of a marriage termination to restart an SBP annuity, please complete the following forms and mail or fax to DFAS U.S. Military Annuitant Pay:

1. DD 2656-7 (Verification for Survivor Annuity)

2. IRS W-4P (Withholding for Pension or Annuity Payments)

3. Direct Deposit start-up form

Reasons Spouse SBP Payments May Be Temporarily Suspended

Each year, we mail spouse annuitants under age 55 a Certificate of Eligibility (COE). We use the information we request on the COE form to determine an annuitant's continued eligibility for monthly payments. If we don’t receive the COE by the deadline on the form, we will suspend all payments until we receive a properly completed COE (see instructions).

If you have not received a COE from us within the last year and feel you should have, please call us to request one at 800-321-1080 or download a COE from our Forms page.

If you are age 55 or over, you are no longer required to complete and submit an annual Certificate of Eligibility (except for those receiving hard copy checks in a foreign country or those who have a permanent disability). You should no longer expect to receive the annual COE once you reach age 55. Your eligibility to receive annuity payments will continue without submitting the COE.

What initiates the SBP benefit and what does a beneficiary have to do?

The designated SBP beneficiary becomes eligible to receive SBP benefits on the day after a service member’s death. The first step a beneficiary must take to initiate SBP benefits is to report the death. Please visit our Reporting a Death page for step-by-step instructions.

*SSIA was made permanent in The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY2018. The NDAA contained a provision to amend section 1450 of USC Title 10 to permanently extend the authority to pay SSIA with an annual cost-of-living adjustment.

**2009 U.S. Court of Appeals decision in the matter of Sharp, et.al. v. the United States
Note: The information on this website is provided to explain typical situations regarding retiree and annuitant benefits. For details and exceptions, please see applicable laws, financial management regulations, and instructions.

Page updated on Feb. 19, 2019